To his credit, Elder graciously conceded Tuesday night, but his speech on the stolen election was arguably his biggest campaign misstep.
His crushing defeat is the latest proof that the idea that the 2020 presidential election has been stolen is poison for Republicans.
It’s not as if Elder, an inexperienced talk show host who shows up in a deep blue state, is going to head for victory anyway. But when pressured by Trump supporters to endorse the stolen election narrative, he came across a political buzz from Newsom linking him to Donald Trump and the January 6 riot.
In the Georgia Senate special election earlier this year, Trump himself split the party and suppressed GOP participation on the sidelines by trying as much as possible to make the election around November 2020 and blaming Republicans who fail to do so. did not accept his allegations of partisan betrayal. .
There could be other costs ahead, perhaps up to and including the 2024 presidential election if Trump is the candidate again.
As my National Review colleague David Bahnsen writes, the stolen election story is going to be a albatross “wherever independents and moderates are needed to win an election – the past emphasis on unprovable allegations of an election. fly in 2020 is toxic. , self-destructive and counterproductive.
The odds have never been in Elder’s favor. Still, polls over the summer showed the recall was surprisingly close. There was a chance Elder could define himself as an outsider worthy of consultation, as long as he never lost sight of the fact that he was running in a strongly anti-Trump state with a huge Democratic registration advantage. .
In an interview with the Sacramento Bee editorial board in August, Elder seemed aware of his situation. Asked about the 2020 election, he said Biden won “just and squarely,” although he – rightly – skinned Hillary Clinton for never really acknowledging the legitimacy of Trump’s 2016 victory.
Then Elder was pushed back on Twitter and couldn’t stand it. Former Trump attorney Jenna Ellis tweeted an excerpt from Elder’s statement: “This could cost @larryelder a lot of votes in California. I totally disagree with his comments here and he has clearly bad advice. “
Shortly after, he appeared on a Tory talk show and said he needed a “mulligan” and chronicled various complaints about the 2020 election.
Although Elder did not deserve the abuse he suffered during the campaign – getting dirty as a suspected tool of white supremacy and even physically assaulted during a campaign stoppage – here he had given his opponents ammunition unnecessary.
If Elder had appeared in a Republican primary in a red state, he would have secured his position well with his recovery, but he had driven a nail into his own coffin on the recall.
It is one thing to complain about the last minute and urgent changes in voting procedures in 2020 and to advocate for a secure system geared towards in-person voting; It is quite another to detail unproven claims that for most people will always be associated with Trump’s worst excesses and the riots on the United States Capitol.
The choice that was forced on Elder – to admit that Biden won the election and alienate MAGA voters, or say he was robbed and alienate voters in the middle – will face Republican candidates across the country throughout the entire period. duration.
That will not change as long as Trump has disproportionate influence over the party. He’s not let go of 2020, rather he’s determined to take revenge on the Republicans who he says betrayed him by not embracing his various conspiracy theories.
Since he never admits the fairness of a loss, the number of allegedly rigged and stolen elections will only increase – the recall, Trump said in a statement, is “just another election scam. giant, no different, but less blatant, than the presidential election of 2020 Election scam! “
This is a cynical and corrosive view of American democracy which, to the extent that it becomes GOP orthodoxy, can only compound Republican frustration.